EUGENE, Ore. -- Len Schvaneveldt gazes across Charnelton Street at Eugene's favorite swimming hole: the pit that used to be the old Sears building.
"It's a conversation starter, that's for sure," said Schvaneveldt, manager of Hutch's Bike Store across the street from the pit.
"We get the people asking what it's for," Schvaneveldt said. "Sometimes we say it's the swim team location."
Schvaneveldt hopes at some point he can quit joking about his nextdoor neighbor.
The Eugene City Council does, too.
More police for downtown, incentives for a new Veteran's Administration clinic, and -- finally -- a plan to fill the pit near the library.
Eugene City Councilors have taken a step toward funding those downtown projects with a $21 million proposal.
"I think this could be one of the biggest moments for downtown in recent history," said City Councilor Chris Pryor.
The centerpiece: filling the pit with the new Downtown Center for Lane Community College.
Other projects include more downtown cops and improvements at the park blocks for the Farmer's Market.
However, the plan depends on urban renewal financing, a controversial topic in Eugene. Voters defeated a $40 million urban renewal proposal in 2007. And Councilor George Brown, who owns the Kiva market near the Eugene bus station, threatened to take the issue to voters in the fall. Brown, his predecessor on the council Bonnie Bettman and others led the effort to defeat the urban renewal plan in 2007.
"What we're hoping is that we can appeal to people that this is not the same urban renewal plan we've talked about before," Pryor said.
So after at least two failed attempts, is Downtown Eugene about ready to turn the corner?
LCC officials don't even have cost estimates for the new center, but those numbers are due soon in a study.
"We'd love to be started by, well -- it's hard to speculate, later this year or early next year, 2011 at the latest," said Dennis Carr, the human resource officer for LCC.
The City Council meets with LCC staff at noon in the McNutt Room at Eugene City Hall.
And Schvaneveldt may get his new neighbor after all.
"Hopefully it works out. It should be a good neighbor," he said.